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My Daughter’s Self-Worth Was Never Dependent on Hillary Clinton

As tumultuous as this week has been, I’ve officially become tired of one recurring story. That’s the barrage of opinion essays about and open letters to the girls in America whose self-esteem supposedly has been wrecked by Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 presidential election.

Not only is that sentiment completely wrongheaded, it’s also dangerous. Most of all, for little girls.

In yesterday’s New York Times, for example, Jessica Bennett wrote that "Girls Can Be Anything, Just Not President."

While Bennett offers up the off-hand yet loaded, “[Clinton’s] loss is not as simple as gender,” which could be the understatement of the year, she goes on to paint a picture of an emotionally devastated child. “[A]s one little girl puts it through tears, ‘Why doesn’t anybody like a girl president?’”

First off, no, Ms. Bennett, Clinton’s loss isn’t as simple as gender. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Clinton didn’t lose because she’s a woman. She lost because people outside of urban centers felt marginalized due to lost jobs and higher health-care costs, and voiced their opinion. She lost supporters because she’s been caught in scandal after scandal. She also lost because she simply couldn't inspire the same number of voters who elected, and re-elected, President Barack Obama.

Not, as the “Will & Grace” election spoof asserted, because she wears pants.

As the mother of a very strong, very opinionated 9-year-old girl (as well as a 4-year-old son), I find the idea of my child's self-confidence connected to a presidential candidate beyond repellant.

The success, or self-worth, of my brilliant, brave, Beatles-loving, “Harry Potter”-reading daughter was never dependent on Hillary Clinton winning, or not winning, this election.

Just as it wasn’t tied to Sarah Palin winning the vice presidency in 2008.

While I was never a Donald Trump supporter, I was also a reluctant Hillary Clinton supporter. Yes, I voted for her, but I wasn’t onboard for all of her policies.

But I watched incredulously over the course of the campaign, after other female candidates fell away, as Clinton came to somehow represent all of Womanhood with a capital W, even though many women felt she didn’t represent them at all.

The success, or self-worth, of my brilliant, brave, Beatles-loving, “Harry Potter”-reading daughter was never dependent on Hillary Clinton winning, or not winning, this election.

That has since trickled down to the little girls, who have been told that their dreams, their futures were somehow dependent on one woman.

How dangerous is that? Why would we tell our girls to tie their self-confidence, their self-esteem, their self-worth to someone else’s accomplishments?

We certainly wouldn’t ask them to tie something so vital, so personal to our own accomplishments or to a boyfriend’s wins or losses.

To make girls feel as if they can’t do something (namely, become president) because another woman didn’t accomplish that goal in an already fraught election crowning perhaps the most offensive candidate in history as our next president—that’s simply not fair. It’s a false comparison.

And people like Bennett are cutting off their upturned noses to spite their face by perpetuating what could become a self-fulfilling prophesy. To which I say to Ms. Bennett: No, my daughter is not your victim.

As a mother, I am raising my children to be good people. To care about others, to be kind to people regardless of their background or beliefs. I’m teaching them to work hard, to think for themselves, to stand up for what they believe in, to be independent and brave. I’m also teaching them that they can be whatever they want to be, because I believe that.

I also know that my children are first looking to me and to my husband as examples before they look to anyone else. Anyone. And my daughter’s value —or my son’s, for that matter—will never be tied to any election, even if it’s her own.

Yesterday, I asked my daughter, “Would you like to be president?” (She recently told me that she wants to be a scientist.)

“No! No way!” she shouted from the back seat of the car.

“Why not?” I asked, prepared for anything.

“The paperwork,” she said. “I don’t want to do all that paperwork.”

I had to laugh, because that’s it. And, of course, that sentiment might change. But her reason was never because she’s a girl.

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